VOTING

The League of Women Voters of Virginia REGISTERS voters and provides accurate information on registration across the Commonwealth. Register to vote, or to check your registration, click here. Governor’s Challenge for high school students The League of Women Voters of Virginia EDUCATES: Frequently Asked Voting Questions Myths & Truths About Voting by Mail VOTE411 where voters can find out information

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Legislative Priorities: Supporting Justice

Governor Northam is calling a Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly in order to adopt a revised budget in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and propose criminal justice and policing reforms. 

The legislature will convene August 18, 2020, after the governor’s end-of-fiscal-year report to the General Assembly’s money committees. The Special Session may extend into early September.

Contact your state legislators and ask them to support legislation on matters important to you! Find contact information for your state Delegate and state Senator at whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov. You may also submit comments to .

The League of Women Voters of Virginia will evaluate bills legislators plan to file in the Special Session with League Positions from Study. See Impact on Issues and Positioned for Action for further details on League Positions. Tentative priorities are set forth below. It appears League Positions also support two bills proposed by the Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition, of which the League is a member. 

Bills that will be filed in the Special Session by the state Senate majority are listed here. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has listed priorities here. The state House of Delegates is convening hearings led jointly by its Public Safety and Courts of Justice Committees and reviewing public comments. As of this printing, two hearings can be viewed on archived video— here and here.

Currently, the League of Women Voters of Virginia expects to prioritize the following announced bills. As bills are filed in the coming weeks, priorities may be adjusted accordingly. 

  •  Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
  •  Ban Sex by Law Enforcement With Arrested Individuals 
  •  Create a Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers
  •  Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers
  •  Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
  •  Require Comprehensive Reporting by Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
  • Cancel HB599 Funding for Local Police With Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents 
  • Create Local Authority for a Marcus Alert System to Report Acute Mental Health Crises
  • Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board to Investigate, Fire, Discipline Officers
  • Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions & Pardoned Offenses
  • Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for Emergency
  • Revise the System of Credits for Good Behavior by Those Incarcerated; see this bill from last session 
  • Discretion for Compassionate Release of Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners
  • Sentence Reductions in Pandemics, With the Release of Vulnerable Populations.

In addition, the League continues to elevate longtime priorities such as opposing cash bail, supporting alternatives to incarceration, and attention to behavioral health. Mental health priorities include training about the nature and treatment of mental illness for justice system personnel involved in civil commitment in Virginia, support for mental health and drug courts to avoid inappropriate entry into the criminal justice system and provide needed treatment, and expansion of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) programs.

In terms of Voting & Elections priorities for the Special Session, several are relevant to the budget, COVID-19, and Justice. In particular, the League supports measures to making voting more accessible to all populations. Topics include support for secure absentee ballot drop boxes, permitting first-time voters who registered by mail to return a copy of their ID with any first ballot they cast by mail, and provision of prepaid postage on return ballot envelopes sent to requesting absentee voters throughout the Commonwealth instead of only in certain areas. 

 

Regular Session

Looking ahead to the Regular Session in Spring 2021, the League has developed the following draft priority list:

  • Voting at Home
  • Preclearance at the state level of practices restricted under the federal Voting Rights Act
  • Redistricting process improvement via constitutional amendment and enabling legislation
  • Election Integrity & Security: Replace VERIS with a system that produces a voter-verifiable paper trail and is secure, accurate, recountable, accessible and transparent.
  • Campaign Finance Reform:
    • Public financing of state office candidates
    • Improved transparency
    • An effective oversight and enforcement agency
    • Limit contributions by individuals, corporations, and political parties. A summary of other states’ legislation on the latter is available here
  • Environmental Conservation:
    • Money in politics— including elimination of the ability of energy providers to use captive ratepayers’ utility payments for political contributions
    • Transportation: attention to renewable energy for transportation solutions
    • Energy Economy: clear air & water; reduce detrimental energy policy impacts on ratepayers
  • 100% Right to Vote constitutional amendment

A continuing priority is Education and Sexual Harassment Training in the Workplace. The Elections and Affordable Housing Studies are continuing and we look forward to the results of those workgroups.

 

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Virginia Gerrymandering

“Gerrymandering” is when officials draw election maps for purposes other than working to give every eligible voter an equal voice in our democracy. Common forms of gerrymandering that distort votes are designed to ensure the dominance of a political party or individuals or for purposes of discrimination against racial or ethnic groups. Legislators at times ensure that an opposition legislator

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New Voting & Elections Laws took effect July 1, 2020

No Excuse Absentee Voting, HB 1 (Herring), HB 207 (VanValkenburg), SB 11 (Howell)

  • Allows any voter qualified to vote in an election to vote absentee without an excuse.

Redistricting Constitutional Amendment, SJ18 (Barker), and Criteria Bill, SB717 (McClellan) / HB1255 (Price)

  • Virginia’s election maps are gerrymandered. Virginia’s Constitution allows legislators to draw boundaries that ensure they are reelected.  Legislators are able to use detailed voter data in selecting their own constituents. Last year, after extensive negotiation, Virginia’s legislature passed a constitutional amendment for a redistricting commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens, with a citizen chair. Virginia’s legislature passed the constitutional amendment the requisite second time this session, along with criteria legislation from Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Cia Price. The Senate vote was 38 – 2, and the House vote was 46 – 43. The General Assembly also passed a ballot referendum which will put the matter before voters in the November general election.

Expand Accepted IDs; Eliminating Photo ID Requirement HB19 (Lindsey), HB213 (Sullivan), SB65 (Locke)

  • HB19 and SB65 eliminate, for most qualified voters, the requirement to provide photo identification at the polls
  • HB213 adds to the list of acceptable forms of voter ID a valid student photo ID card issued by any institution of higher education in any other state or territory of the United States

Repealing Race Based Restrictions on Voting, HB1086 (Price), SB555 (Spruill)

  • Repeals laws that were still on the books relating to voting restrictions, poll taxes, and registration records separated on the basis of race

Automatic Voter Registration, HB235 (J. Cole), SB219 (Marsden)

  • Gives visitors to the Department of Motor Vehicles the choice to opt out of registering to vote instead of an opt in to filling out a voter registration application.

Election Day Holiday, HB108 (Lindsey), SB610 (Lucas)

  • Designates Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as a state holiday and removes Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday.

High School Voter Registration, HB1491 (Guy)

  • Requires every public high school to give students, who are eligible to register to vote, access to registration information and applications, or access to the online registration system, and the opportunity to apply during the school day.

 

Same Day Registration & Voting, HB201 (Ayala), delayed effective date of July 1, 2022.

  • Will let qualified voters register and vote on the same day if they provide proof of residency. 
  •  
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March Virginia Voter

The Virginia Voter

Hot off the presses” is your copy of the Virginia Voter.

In this issue you will find: 

  • Secret Agents of Change
  • Your Help Needed in the Push for Redistricting
  • Virginia General Assembly: February 2020; Pre-Crossover,  Crossover and Post-Crossover
  • League Day Recap
  • Save the Date for LWV-VA Council!
  • What Sparks Political Activity?
  • March 3 President Primary FAQ
  • Report on Human Rights Legislation in this Year’s General Assembly Session
  • Join the Celebration!
  • Deaf History Month March 13th – April 15th.
  • Some Special Photos from This Legislative Session
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Jan 19, 2020 Calls to Action

Week of January 20-25

Tip: Are you on facebook? Join the League’s Advocacy discussion group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/373903886296976/ & answer the questions. 

☎️☎️☎️ Remember to log your advocacy! A little competition makes it fun. Click here to be counted for your Local League: http://bit.ly/LogYourAdvocacy ☎️☎️☎️

Privileges & Elections (“P&E”) Committees 

House P&E / Elections Subcommittee

Topic: no excuse absentee voting

Date: Tues, Jan. 21, 7 AM

Location: House Room 1

Senate P&E Committee

Topic: campaign finance reform, voting rights, efficient elections, the ERA (on crossover), and gender equality.

Date:  Tues, Jan. 21, 15 minutes after Senate adjournment (approx. 2 PM)

Location: Senate Room 3, the Capitol, Richmond 

Livestream Video should be available during and after the hearing at this link: http://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

Contact

What to Say 

if you are a constituent, mention that and state your name and address. 

Please use your own words. Ideas below. We suggest one or two topics per contact. You may also sign up here to join other League members for a preparatory briefing and visits to legislators on League Day.

No excuse absentee voting

“Please copatron and pass no excuse absentee voting so people will not need to name a reason for voting absentee, which can deter voting. Please cosponsor and vote for HB 1, 25, 208 & 209 / SB 111. Thank you.”

Campaign finance reform

“Please copatron and vote for the campaign finance bills in the P&E Committee this week, Senate Bills 25, 166, 205, 266, 488, 889 and 979, to give you greater freedom to vote as you think is right. These bills will help ensure other legislators have to follow the same rules.”

Voting procedure

“Elections should be efficient and designed to facilitate voting. Please cosponsor and vote for Senator Ebbin’s SJ 63, which synchronizes state general elections with federal election years. It will save the state money by reducing the frequency of elections, and will expand voting because voters will see federal as well as state campaign notices during voting years.”

Redistricting

While not on the P&E docket for this week, the state League supports second passage of the Redistricting Amendment. Please urge your legislators to copatron, support, and vote for the redistricting constitutional amendment this session, HJ 71 / SJ 18, with enabling legislation, HB 758 / SB 203 & 204. Click here for a FAQ from the League of Women Voters of Virginia.

Voting rights / felons

“Please copatron and vote for SJ 14, which authorizes the General Assembly to provide by general law for the restoration of civil rights for persons convicted of a felony. The essence of our system of government is the right to vote, and that right should not be abridged.”

Racial equity

While this bill is not in committee yet for this week, schedules are still being posted and supporting it is helpful. “Please copatron and vote for HB 973, which will repeal racially discriminatory laws relating to the racial segregation of students in elementary schools, secondary schools, and institutions of higher learning. For Virginia to fully improve its future, we must clean up harmful laws of the past.”

ERA

“Please copatron and vote for the House Equal Rights Amendment resolution, HJ 1, which will be heard in Senate P&E on Tuesday. This is a crossover vote. The Constitution should provide equal treatment under law, because statutory protections can be rolled back with a simple majority vote; the Constitution is more enduring.”

Gender equity

“Every person deserves the dignity of equal treatment under law. Please copatron and vote for SJ 3 and SJ 7, which will repeal the constitutional amendment prohibiting a legal status for same sex unions. This is already invalid due to the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.”

“Please copatron and vote for Del. Plum’s SB 618, which adds gender, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery, or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense.”

☎️☎️☎️ Remember to log your advocacy! Click to be counted for your Local League: http://bit.ly/LogYourAdvocacy ☎️☎️

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WLRT Pre-Session: All In for All Issues

Martha Rollins, LWVSHR

LWV-VA President Deb Wake quickly summarized the overall message of our day of legislative issues for the upcoming General Assembly: “Public Education!” With great resolve she added, “We must get this information out.”

A record-breaking number of about 150 League members and allies met on December 4, 2019, at The John Marshall Hotel Ballroom in Richmond to grasp the array of topics for legislative action. The enthusiasm reflected the high voter turnout of the off-off-year election of the General Assembly—the members who will act on decennial redistricting.

The Pre-Session edition of the Women’s Legislative Roundtable (WLRT) continued the tradition of leading with a report of the fiscal framework. Current Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne delivered a positive report for revenue that he labeled “cautiously optimistic.” He explained that Virginia was responsive to defense spending of the federal government and finally shows benefit from the lifting of sequestration. He acknowledged high consumer confidence. He commented that 2.6% was the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia history. Secretary Layne also expressed concern for the impact of mandated expenditures, particularly the impact of Medicaid. Without upstaging the release of the Governor’s budget on December 17, Secretary Layne anticipated significant “investment” in K-12 education and higher education, as well as attention to mental health services. He also raised expectations for change in the process of the legislative branch because of new leadership and a substantial number of newly elected members in the committee structure. 

The Issues Slam began with Edgar Arando Yanoc’s pitch on behalf of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations that our roads would be safer if driver’s licenses were issued to all drivers, including undocumented drivers. Kim Bobo of the Interfaith Center called for paid sick days for low-wage workers. Commenting that because she spends so much time in front of the Commerce and Labor Committees, she predicts passage of the modest proposal being developed by Senator Barbara Favola. Bobo noted that Virginia could be the first state in the South to support the paid leave issue. The Interfaith Center’s message to increase the minimum wage was echoed by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. Chris Duncombe said that Virginia’s minimum was the lowest comparable in the country and that over a million people would benefit.

[CONTINUE READING FROM NEWSLETTER ARTICLE HERE]

The pace of presentations roared through housing and human equality to pro-choice protection. Then Brian Koziol of the Virginia Housing Alliance noted that League legislative priorities lacked housing provisions but listed components that impacted housing, especially education and non-discrimination. LWV-VA Chair of the affordable housing study, Alice Tousignant, caught up with Koziol at the first break.

Andy Goddard, a loyal advocate for gun safety since the violence at Virginia Tech in 2007, represented the Virginia Center for Public Safety. In a carefully nuanced message, Goddard quoted a passage from Justice Antonin Scalia in the US Supreme Court decision in Heller, in support of reasonable regulation of firearms. Goddard urged support for the eight bills submitted by the administration and characterized the bills as common-sense measures that have shown a reduction of gun violence in other states. Goddard will meet safety supporters on January 20 on the steps of the Capitol at 2 P.M.

Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 & Deb Wake, President LWV-VA

Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 & Deb Wake, President LWV-VA

Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 & Deb Wake, President LWV-VA

As the speakers’ lineup reached the last third, Susan Burk of the American Association of University Women, commented that she felt as though she was “speed dating with policy wonks.” Danny Plaugher from the Virginia Transit Association packed the most information of the day into one message. Overall, he called for sustainable funding. Brian Cannon of OneVA2021 raised the cheering level in the ballroom to celebrate how far the fair redistricting proposal has come and he carefully outlined the steps remaining, including passage of a constitutional amendment establishing a commission, criteria legislation, and ratification at the ballot box in the 2020 general election on November 3.

In the home stretch, Katie Hornung, VAratifyERA. rocked the ballroom. Everyone knew what she would say, and she did. In the 100th Anniversary Year of gaining the right of women to vote, the Equal Rights Amendment will be ratified by Virginia, the 38th state to ratify, and the last state necessary for ratification. Hornung instructed all to contact their delegates and senators by January 1st. She invited all to the Capitol to welcome the Assembly on January 8 and to participate in the Women’s Summit, Welcome Lineup, and Party for Parity.

Key reports on election process came from Allison Robbins, President of the Voter Registrars of Virginia; Megan Rhyne, Virginia Coalition for Open Government (VCOG); and Chris Piper, Commissioner of Elections. Rhyne recognized the role of the League in the founding of VCOG. She acknowledged that “WE ARE STILL WATCHING.”

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU), delivered a vigorous account of the importance of our fundamental right to vote. She noted that Virginia ranked second in a recent university study as the hardest state in which to vote. She explained that the best way to overcome disenfranchisement of people convicted of a felony is to adopt a state constitutional amendment. The ACLU is developing tool kits to mobilize PeoplePower to remove arbitrary barriers to voting. She reviewed the Reconstruction to Jim Crow legacy of voting in Virginia with multiple examples. She fielded questions with a clear vision of effective engagement in the upcoming legislative session.

LWV-VA’s Advocacy team sent us homeward with the League’s priority list for legislation and the schedule for 8:30 A.M. Wednesday morning sessions of WLRT at SunTrust Center. The team reminded us to stay connected: Julia Tanner, Advocacy; Carol Noggle and Mary Crutchfield, Legislative Coordinators; and Carolyn Caywood, Facebook.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU)

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The time is now for People-Powered Fair Maps©!

Chris DeRosa
Co-chair LWV-VA Redistricting Committee

In the next 3 months, the Virginia General Assembly will have the opportunity to take a huge step towards ending gerrymandering in the Commonwealth. We are very close!

Gerrymandering rigs the system. It robs the citizens of fair representation. It allows legislators to draw maps to protect their own seats. It allows them to choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their representatives. Gerrymandering is voter suppression and must end now.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 306, a constitutional amendment, with strong bipartisan support. The General Assembly must pass the constitutional amendment once again, in its entirety, with nary a comma nor word substituted or deleted, in the 2020 session before it comes to the voters for approval in November 2020. Once Virginia voters approve the constitutional amendment at the polls, it will set the stage for the drawing of fair maps in 2021 after the 2020 census. According to the recent Wason Center Poll conducted by Christopher Newport University, 70% of Virginians support passing the constitutional amendment a second time.

The constitutional amendment may not be perfect; few, if any, bills or amendments are. However, there are many important features that merit our approval:

  • For the first time, citizens will serve on the commission that draws the maps. Eight members of the sixteen-member commission will be non-politicians. One of the citizen-members will serve as the commission chair. A super-majority of at least 6 (of 8) citizen members plus 6 (of 8) legislator members must approve the maps that are drawn.
  • For the first time, transparency will be required of the commission and its decisions. Redistricting decisions will be brought out into the light, not hidden away in dark, secret backrooms. All meetings shall be open to the public, and at least three public hearings must be held in different parts of the Commonwealth. All records, documents, and internal and external communications shall be available to the public. 
  • The maps drawn by the commission will be submitted to the General Assembly, which will vote “yea” or “nay”; the General Assembly may not amend the maps.

[CONTINUED FROM NEWSLETTER]

Criteria contained in the amendment include “contiguous and compact territory” and “representation in proportion to the population of the district”. Maps must be “drawn in accordance with the requirements of federal and state laws that address racial and ethnic fairness, including the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment … and provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” The maps shall provide “opportunities for racial and ethnic communities to elect candidates of their choice.” (note: bolded quotations are the new language that would be added to Article II, Section 6, of the Virginia Constitution). These requirements will be protected and enshrined in the Constitution and cannot be easily changed when political leadership changes.

Enabling legislation that clearly defines the criteria is necessary. The League of Women Voters of Virginia supports criteria legislation that:

  • Requires maps that:
    •  respect geographic and jurisdictional boundaries, as well as communities of interest;
    • result in competitive elections;
    • do not favor one political party over another; and
    • protect the voting strength of minority groups;
  • Establishes criteria for selecting the citizen commissioners, including the representation that reflects the diversity in our Commonwealth;
  • Directs the Supreme Court of Virginia to appoint a qualified special master to draw the maps, should the Commission and the General Assembly fail to draw and approve maps.

We are heading in the right direction. The eyes of the nation are on Virginia. Respected voices have expressed support for the Constitutional Amendment, including Michael Li of the Brennan Center, Common Cause, author David Daley, and Senator Tim Kaine.

There are legislators who are getting “cold feet” and walking back from their previous support of fair maps. Some seem tempted to keep their newly-gained power for themselves. They want voters to “trust” them to draw the maps. We do not support backing away from the constitutional amendment passed last session.

The time is NOW. Virginia is ready to show the nation what fair redistricting can look like. We need YOU to contact your legislators and urge them to support the Constitutional Amendment – and pass strong enabling legislation. Fair elections are under threat, and all of us are needed at this moment in history.

  • Many local Leagues have organized pre-session forums, and many of your legislators are scheduling their own town halls. Plan to attend and let your voice be heard! You can find a list of town halls here.  
  • Contact your lawmakers via email, phone calls, or postcards. Let them know that you support People-Powered Fair Maps© and that you want them to support this Constitutional Amendment when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2020.
  • A very easy way to send an email is via the LWV-Virginia’s action alert: Just click here.  

Thank you for helping to make People-Powered Fair Maps© a reality in Virginia!

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2020 LWV-VA Legislative Priorities

The LWV of Virginia Legislative Priorities are now available at https://lwv-va.org/action-advocacy/2020-lwv-va-legislative-priorities/ for long-term use.

Here is what you’ll find there: 

LWV-VA Legislative Priorities for Advocacy/Action in 2020

Planning for and predicting what will be the most vital issues for advocacy in an upcoming legislative session is very difficult. Historically, the LWV-VA Board proposes a set of priorities but those have often been adjusted and expanded when issues arise quickly and need significant advocacy and lobbying. Thus, this list is offered as a start to preparation for the 2020 General Assembly Session. Some items are more specific than others. We have a book full of LWV-VA Positions to apply to issues but more specific language for advocacy and lobbying on actual legislative proposals will need to be developed in order to be effective. We welcome your analysis and suggestions.

LWV-VA Legislative Team: Carol Noggle, Mary Crutchfield, Julia Tanner

  1. Voting Rights

    1. Support 100%right to vote [Constitutional Amendment for 2021-22]

    2. Assure continuation of Governor’s executive clemency authority to restore felons’ rights

  2. Election & Voter Protection

    1. Support funding and measures for integrity and security; State and Local level

    2. Support funding & measures for a perfect fail-proof process for online voter registration

    3. Support measures for proper counting of and on-time receipt of mailed in absentee ballots

    4. Increase eligible/valid photo IDs, e.g.out of state students

  3. Redistricting: Support Constitutional Amendment resolution passage in 2020

  4. Gun Violence Prevention/ Safety:

    1. Support universal background checks

    2. Support “Red Flag” laws

    3. Support strengthening Extreme Risk Protective Orders

    4. Support Child Access Prevention laws

    5. [See 2019 Special Session1 list of over 40 bills to analyze for support or opposition]

  5. Women’s Rights

    1. Support ratification of the ERA

    2. Support equal pay;[ [Oppose wage discrimination]

    3. Support right to reproductive choice [ See SB1637 by Sen Boysko for sample]

  6. Sexual Harassment – Support required in-person training at workplace [State/ private?]

  7. Education

    1. Support funding for school infrastructure

    2. Oppose public funding for private schools

    3. Oppose discriminatory and deleterious practices for discipline/behavior issues

    4. [Apply LWV-VA Education position on ‘Standards for School Climate” “Classrooms not Courtrooms”]

  8. Justice and Juvenile Justice

    1. Oppose discrimination [support rights] re LGBTQ community and many other special groups

    2. Eliminate cash bail; support measures to reduce confinement while awaiting trial

    3. Collect data on present use of bail

    4. Oppose additional mandatory minimum sentences

    5. Oppose discriminatory and deleterious practices for juvenile issues

  9. Immigration

    1. Support immigrant protection and resources for support

  10. Census: Support funding, outreach, education & personnel to ensure high participation

  11. Environment: See LWV-VA Positions to support or oppose germane issues

*Note These LWV-VA legislative priorities as of Sept.13, 2019 are not ranked and are subject to change

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2020 LWV-VA Legislative Priorities

LWV-VA Legislative Priorities for Advocacy/Action in 2020 Voting & Elections Same day registration & voting No excuse absentee voting Elections integrity and security Fail-proof online voter registration Proper counting and timely review of absentee ballots Right sized polling places; fund where needed Expand accepted IDs Redistricting Constitutional amendment & strong enabling legislation Commission: transparent; diverse; avoid conflicts of interest Criteria:

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